Former Softball Players Making A Difference
Oct. 2, 2008
AUBURN - Although Kim Freeland Owens and Martha Phillips George dreamed of becoming doctors from an early age, their time spent playing softball at Auburn left a lasting impact on their career decisions.
George plans to complete her fellowship for orthopedic surgery in sports medicine and Owens plans to return to the Auburn area after graduation to serve as a general practitioner.
Owens was invited as a walk-on for the Auburn softball team and played from 2000-2003. The outfielder from Cullman, Ala., said her time as a student-athlete taught her several life lessons that have prepared her for a career in the medical field.
"Being a student-athlete teaches you how to manage your time," Owens said. "It teaches you how to be more disciplined. I learned to be a leader and to work as a team for a common goal."
Working in the medical field requires teamwork, a skill Owens developed during her time at Auburn.
"When you play a team sport, there are a lot of different personalities that come together to make up the team," Owens said. "You have to learn how to deal with everybody and put personal interests aside and work as a team."
Playing college sports and going to class is a full-time job, one that teaches student-athletes time management and organization. Learning to study on the road and making good grades become priorities. Owens credits her undergraduate days as a softball player with preparing her to become a better student in medical school.
Owens said the best advice she could give current student-athletes is to make the most of every opportunity they have while at Auburn.
"You have to start from day one," Owens said. "You have to be ready to work hard. It takes a little time to get used to being at practice every day, conditioning every morning and trying to figure out how to manage your time. Take every opportunity you can to do everything you can as a student-athlete. You are a role model to people in the community and people across the state and the country."
Owens misses her playing days at Auburn, and comes back to watch a few football and softball games each year. In the future, she hopes to permanently return to Auburn to practice medicine.
After graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine in May 2009, Owens will begin her three-year residency in June.
"Right now, I'm planning on practicing somewhere outside of Auburn in a smaller community that is underserved," Owens said. "There is a shortage of family physicians in our state."
Owens said she chose to become a family physician because she loves making a difference in people's lives/
"I love getting to talk to people and getting to help them," she said. "A big part of family medicine is finding out about people and their families, and being able to treat everybody from little babies to the elderly."No less passionate about her career, George already had strong ties to Auburn before being recruited as a softball player. Both of her parents and her sister attended Auburn.
After graduating from Auburn in 2004, George attended the UAB School of Medicine and is now doing her residency for orthopedic surgery. She has a five-year residency for orthopedic surgery and a one-year sports medicine fellowship.
George said the long hours she works now remind her of her days on the softball field.
"There are a lot of times where I feel like I'm in military camp," George said. "The hours are long. As an athlete we started doing workouts at 4 or 5 a.m., and I have to be at the hospital at 4 or 5 a.m. We put in 12-plus hour days, usually longer, every day. You learn how to be efficient as an athlete and it transfers over into your career."
Surgery can be stressful, but George said that is something she has learned to work through.
"Playing softball, you have to step up to the plate and come through under pressure," she said. "There are definitely those types of situations in medicine, especially being a surgeon."
After watching a presentation during career day in the fourth grade, George said she knew her calling was orthopedic surgery. Both of her parents are veterinarians, and she grew up watching them do surgeries. Her interest in sports medicine grew out of her years on the softball field.
"Being an athlete all through junior high and high school and playing softball at Auburn had a huge impact on me wanting to do a fellowship in sports medicine," George said. "You are doing the procedure that is going to make a difference in their (athlete's) life. With orthopedics, it's not so much life or death but you are getting people back their careers if they are athletes or getting people back to working if they have been hurt in some accident. You get them back on track. The thing about being in orthopedics that I like the most is that people get better and they come back to thank you."
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